Why I’m Joining The Barclay’s FinTech Accelerator in Tel Aviv As An Investment Partner
I started my first company, .tv , in 2000 out of the iconic idealab incubator in Los Angeles. Working with the brilliant Bill Gross and the rest of the idealab team was a career highlight. I’ve always believed that .tv was a success, in large part, due to the idealab innovation ecosystem.
When the bubble burst, most incubators shut down, but idealab persevered, and continues to build great companies. As the internet came roaring back, so did the idea of incubators and accelerators, and I found myself increasingly interested in learning about the new entrants. Whenever I traveled to new cities, I visited the top incuabtors and accelerators. Eventually, along with Peter Relan, I started a conference, Incuabte, on the topic of incubators and accelerators. I became an advisor at Runway, the post doc accelerator at CornellTech with the smartest founders of any accelerator on the planet. I even gave a TEDx talk on corporate accelerators last April. Suffice it to say, I love learning about and participating in incubators and accelerators.
Techstars — Accelerator Powerhouse
Techstars launched its first accelerator program in Boulder, Colorado, in 2007, and quickly began expanding to other cities. In 2011, Techstars launched the its first corporate accelerator with Microsoft, highlighting the benefits of such programs to both startups and corporations. Techstars now runs a 11 corporate accelerators with some of the world’s most innovative companies including Disney, Virgin Media, Kaplan, and R/GA. Techstars has emerged as an accelerator powerhouse with 20 programs across 15 cities around the world.
On July 4th, 2014, I had the opportunity to visit the Barclays FinTech Accelerator Powered by Techstars in London. I was impressed by the companies I met, by the program itself (run by Greg Rogers), and by the benefits that would accrue to the companies post their time in the program. But most of all, I was impressed with the commitment that Barclays had to working with companies in the program to make them a success. So I was not surprised when Techstars announced the Barclays FinTech Accelerator program was expanding to New York City in 2015.
So when Greg Rogers reached out to me, after reading a blog post about my enthusiasm for the Israel tech ecosystem, to see if I was interested in becoming an investment partner with their new Barclays FinTech Accelerator in Tel Aviv, I was very intrigued. The finance industry is huge, and in the early days of disruption that will create massive shareholder value for the successful disrupters (e.g. Square, LendingClub…). This opportunity is reflected in the dramatic growth in VC funding of FinTech companies.
In addition, each class of 10 companies in the Tel Aviv accelerator will include 4–5 cyber security companies, a sector where Israel is a recognized world leader.
I knew the Tel Aviv program will benefit the FinTech and cyber security companies involved. I knew Techstars incredible global network of over 5,000 alumni and mentors will be a tremendous asset to any Israeli company looking to expand around the world. I knew how strong Barclays commitment to the program is, as evidenced by the latest class in New York where 90% of the companies generated pilots at Barcalys. However, the unknown was meaningful. Who was going to run the program?
My commitment to the program was cemented after meeting with Liron Rose, the Tel Aviv programs Managing Director. Liron is a talented founder, a successful investor (Similar Web, ironSource, Kenshoo…), with a stellar reputation, who has the right temperament to run a corporate accelerator. It’s a tough job, with multiple constituencies to keep happy, while fostering an ecosystem of innovation and success. Here’s a great video of an information session Liron recently held about the program.
The icing on the cake was when I had the opportunity to meet Leonard Rosen, the impressive CEO of Barclays Capital Israel, on a recent trip of his to New York. He carved out the time to meet with me while he was managing a $6.75 billion bond offering for Teva. We talked about his strong interest in being hands on at the Accelerator, and about the the impact the blockchain could have across multiple industries. My excitement about the program reached new highs after our meeting.
Applications are currently being accepted for the program until January 2nd. The first class will start on March 13th and graduate on June 22nd. I can’t wait!